Unsound Science

Envio Energi CEO’s research proves woody biomass is carbon neutral.
By | January 05, 2011

Envio Energi LLC had six biomass power plant projects in the works when the U.S. EPA’s proposed Industrial Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (IB MACT) rule was released. Then everything came to a screeching halt, says CEO Roland Fjallstrom. Now, he's unsure of the fate of those projects and his business.

Fjallstrom, born and raised in Sweden, is a pioneer of biomass combined-heat-and-power systems and has worked in the forest products industry most of his life. In 2009, he obtained a license from KMW Energi, the largest supplier of wood bioenergy plants in Sweden and expanded into the U.S. market.

Fjallstrom, also a wood chemist, has been compiling carbon footprint data (see chart) since the IB MACT proposed rule release. His research included turning to the EU Commission for clarification on its modeling for carbon footprints, which utilizes the ISO 14000 accredited Life Cycle Assessment. This is a method that’s used to analyze the cumulative environmental impact of a process or product through all stages of its life, from equipment manufacturing to construction to operation and maintenence. 

Fjallstrom also acquired data from a study done by the British government in 2006 and updated its harvesting information. “A big portion of carbon footprint calculations is the physical harvesting,” he says. “What they’ve done with modern machines today is about half of what it used to be in 2005 and 2006. This needs to be displayed to the public and the U.S., at least within this industry, because the EPA’s current approach is ridiculous.”

The ISO certification of various biomass LCA methods is well-established in Europe, Fjallstrom says. “The biogenic carbon cycle of woody biomass proves that it consumes and absorbs more carbon dioxide in its life cycle than it would ever emit in a reasonable combustion process. It is carbon neutral, if not carbon negative.”

“I’ve gone through GHG life cycles many times, and now I’m seeing studies that more or less suggest that [the U.S.] cannot use the science the Europeans have used over the past 50 years, rather we must reinvent it,” Fjallstrom adds. “An individual biomass source consumes and absorbs more CO2 in its life cycle than it will ever emit. There can be no re-sciencing of that—it has already been proven.”